Top Art Stories: The strategy edition + some fake dots

This week’s Top Art Stories are all about strategies that artists and collectors engage in in the contemporary art market. Read on to find out more.

Forgotten artists are making a comeback

C-hirstMartial Raysse, Moira Dryer, Germaine Richier, Charles Biederman… Never heard about them? Don’t worry, you will soon. The contemporaries of Andy Warhol and Francis Bacon are making a comeback to the art market as collectors and dealers sourcing works from artists who had been long overlooked. Whether these artists are old or deceased, escalating prices paid for Postwar and Contemporary art today encourage many to look for works parallel in quality and context. Many of the artists who are being now rediscovered in the U.S. are known in Europe. Howard Rachofsky, a Dallas-based collector saw an opportunity in postwar Italian art when more than a decade ago he went after works by undervalued at the time Lucio Fontana and bought “Concerto Spaziale, la Fine di Dio” at auction for $2.3 million. Today this type of work would fetch at least ten times more! Source: Bloomberg

Flip Art

F-hirstA new art movement is here but it is not exactly what we were all expecting. Forget about “isms” – a deifying attribute of this new kind of art is not directly related to its visual characteristics but lies in the market behavior of collectors who buy it. The strategy is as follows: before anyone even see or hear about them, works by young, hip artists like Oscar Murillo, Dan Rees, Parker Ito, or Lucien Smith are privately bought by insiders and then quickly resold, or “flipped” preferably at a public auction (to bring more visibility in the art market of course) at phenomenal profit. The aesthetic of Flip Art is recognizable and can be summed up to three principles: abstract composition, cheap-painting techniques and mass-production. Source: The New York Times

Tax Break on art in Oregon favoring collectors

T-hirstIf you ever wondered why the record-selling Francis Bacon triptych travelled straight to the museum in Portland, Oregon after the Christie’s auction last November, here is the answer. Collectors who buy art in one state and ship it to another have to pay “use taxes” that can be quite sizable when applied to works worth millions of dollars. But if the purchased artwork is lent to a museum in one of the five tax-friendly states (New Hampshire, Oregon, Alaska, Montana and Delaware) the transaction is considered tax-free! The strategy is 100% legal and seems to benefit both, collectors and museums. The Portland Museum of Art has received numerous loans from savvy collectors, with Bacon’s “Three Studies of Lucian Freud” being the latest one. Elaine Wynn, the new owner of the $142 million triptych is eligible to avoid as much as $11 million in use taxes in her home state of Nevada. You might also hear this maneuver being referred to as the “Norton Simon Rule”, after the industrialist and art collector who first made use of this smart practice. Source: The New York Times

Minor works by major artists

M-hirstIn today’s overheated art market smaller and less significant works are increasingly being auctioned to a growing audience. Tiny sketches, signed napkins, ceramic bowls, or even a map to the hardware store – anything has a value if a great artist ever touched it. Some collectors see it as an excellent opportunity to obtain at least a minor work by the artist they admire, but whose better works are out of their price range. Who said that you cannot have your own Rembrandt if you are not a millionaire? A Rembrandt etching can be purchased for as little as $4,800 (yes, Rembrandt held it in his hands!). Sometimes these pieces can be mistaken for mere memorabilia, and very often can hardly be relevant to the artist’s oeuvre. Even though prices on these works have been steadily increasing in past decades, considering the longer-than-average holding period, the major issue with this category is authentication, with provenance becoming the only determinant of authenticity of the work. Source: The Wall Street Journal 

Do successful artists need galleries?

G-hirstAn interesting tendency is developing among artists and the galleries are not going to be happy about it. A handful of successful internationally recognized artists bypass gallery representation and look for alternative methods of promoting and selling their work. Joana Vasconcelos, previously represented by Haunch of Venison gallery that closed in March 2013, is a perfect example of an artist who already has all the necessary connections in the art world to exhibit and sell her work. She represented Portugal at the Venice Biennale, her work is in major private collections and she had numerous solo exhibitions. Really, why would she share 50% of her profit with a gallery? But, it should be remembered that there is much more to the role of a gallery than mere promotion, exhibition or transaction. Most importantly, galleries control supply and demand and sustain the work of their artists at the secondary market by buying, or just bidding for them at auction. Source: The Art Newspaper

Forging a Damien Hirst dot painting is not as easy as it seems

H-hirstA Florida pastor/ part-time art dealer Kevin Sutherland was convicted last week of trying to sell fake Damien Hirst paintings. Sutherland bought the works from Vincent Lopreto, California forger who sold dozens of Hirst’s “polka dot” and “spin” paintings on eBay along with fake certificates of authenticity. These relatively easy-to-copy works, produced in countless numbers by Hirst’s assistants, became the focus of Lopreto’s scheme. Sutherland tried to consign one of the fakes to Sotheby’s last year, but the auction house questioned the work’s authenticity and contacted Mr. Hirst’s studio in London, Science Ltd. that deemed the painting fake. Source: Artnet  

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